Children watched in delight March 14 as the U.S. Air Force Demonstration Squadron, better known as the Thunderbirds, flew across the skies over Luke Air Force Base. The demonstration team brightened the day for a group of special-needs children during their practice demonstration and meet-and-greet.
“This is one of the many nonflying events that we do,” said Tech. Sgt. Jacob Richmond, Thunderbirds NCO-in-charge of media relations. “We are always looking for different ways to interact with the community.”
There were more than 100 children and family members who attended the event, each with their own special story.
“Today’s performance was so awesome,” said Aidan Schow, 9, one of the children in attendance. “We all had fun and the Thunderbirds are amazing.”
Aiden’s brother Samuel,11, also attended the event. They both suffer from a disorder called nemaline myopathy that primarily affects skeletal muscles which the body uses for movement. Both children have feeding tubes and Aidan sleeps with oxygen at night. The brothers are home-schooled in hopes of preventing sicknesses such as the common cold, which for them could easily turn into pneumonia.
“I loved everything about the event,” Samual said . “My favorite maneuver was the knife pass. It was cool because I got to meet all the pilots numbers one through 12.”
The day before the Air Show, during the Thunderbirds practice performance, is normally reserved for certain groups of people, one of which includes children with special needs.
“I love this because it’s not only something we can do as part of our mission, but since it’s not an actual performance day the children pretty much get their own private air show,” Richmond said. “Our goal is to give them that one unforgettable experience.”
After budget restraints grounded the Thunderbirds last year, performing their first air show of the year at Luke Air Force Base, where the demonstration team originated, was particularly special, Richmond said. Seeing the children’s smiles gives the Thunderbirds team an overwhelming joy.
“I really felt like today’s event not only had a positive influence on them, but also brought their spirits up and gave them the opportunity to interact with other children,” said Shiloh Schow, Aiden and Samuel’s mother.